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Morocco Week in Review 
July 26, 2020

Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web

Moroccan American Network to Celebrate 5th Morocco Day Online

The event will exceptionally take place online this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Taha Mebtoul -  Jul 17, 2020 Rabat

The Moroccan American Network will host the fifth “Morocco Day” from July 22 to 25, on its Facebook page, under the theme of “COVID-19 and Remote Work.”
The event will exceptionally take place online this year via video conferences with professors, artists, and American and Moroccan entrepreneurs. The event represents an annual opportunity for the Moroccan American Network to celebrate Morocco in the city of Alexandria, Virginia. July 25 became the official date of the annual event following the recognition of Alexandria’s mayor, Justin Wilson. The event also earned recognition in Washington, D.C., which claimed July 29 as its official date of observance. Morocco Day is an “occasion to devote the depth of the historical relationship that binds the Kingdom of Morocco to the United States of America,” said the network. The 5th Morocco Day will open on July 22 with a webinar to discuss education and innovation with experts from Morocco and North America. The presenters work in the fields of education, innovation, and training…..

Three Students Win Morocco Library Project’s Short Story Contest

“All of the stories are wonderful, and we're impressed by the creative spark of every single one of these students.”

By Morocco World News -  Jul 23, 2020 Rabat

Morocco Library Project (MLP) officially announced the top three winners of the MLP Short Story Writing Competition organized this year for high school students in Morocco. MLP Founder Barb Mackraz announced the winners through the organization’s Facebook page. She established the foundation to develop English libraries at rural Moroccan public high schools. The three winners have each received an Amazon Paperwhite Kindle, and more gifts in the form of books and certificates are on the way.  “It’s always been a dream of mine to encourage young writers here, and it’s a great way to evolve the whole MLP program,” she said.  The organizers said the goal now is to publish an anthology of these 21 stories and put them in the MLP libraries.  “Can you imagine how a student will feel pulling a book off the shelf with their own story in it? I think people in the US and other places will also be interested in what young Moroccans have to say, and in that sense a project like this can encourage friendship and broader understanding across the world,” Mackraz said.  Mackraz added that all the teachers who participated in the competition will also receive a certificate of recognition and a thank-you package of new books for their libraries.  …………..

‘Superwomen’: Recognizing Moroccan Women Who Shine and Inspire

Moroccan women achieve outstanding feats in the fields of science, literature, politics, sports, and business, making them role models in their country and elsewhere.

By Asmae Nakib -  Jul 19, 2020

As a Moroccan woman, seeing accomplished women from my country shine on the global stage makes my chest swell with pride. These women are scientists, authors, athletes, businesswomen, and politicians that I admire for their remarkable achievements. I personally see them as Superwomen: Heroines that honor my country and raise the Moroccan flag high up in the air with their outstanding accomplishments. 
At a time of crisis, when women face disproportionate risk due to the coronavirus pandemic, recognizing these heroines is more important than ever. These women are a ray of hope, a motivation, and an inspiration that can uplift Moroccan women during the good times and the bad.  

Fatima Mernissi is a Moroccan feminist, sociologist, and writer. Throughout her career, she has shown exceptional devotion to her faith and activism. Mernissi has raised her voice about the issues that marginalized women face in Morocco. She has conducted a series of studies in Morocco as part of her work as a sociologist. …………….

Moroccan Woman in the US Takes in Stranded Student as Her Own

The warmth of Hanane Chaibainou demonstrates the fluidity with which Moroccan values can transcend borders.

By Morgan Hekking -  Morgan Hekking holds a BA in International Relations from Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. Jul 20, 2020 Rabat

Laila Serraj, a Moroccan student at Drew University in the US state of New Jersey, was one of an estimated 33,000 Moroccans who became stranded abroad when Morocco shut its borders on March 15. Her mother, Kelly Serraj, was understandably sick with worry. Drew University suspended face-to-face instruction in favor of remote classes in mid-March.  “Laila continued to stay at [her] university but she was alone and getting depressed as each day went on,” Kelly told Morocco World News. ……………..

Reflections on Omar Himmi of Toubkal, Morocco

Arabic: Al-Watan Voice, 14 Jul 2020. By RPCV Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is a sociologist and President of the High Atlas Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to sustainable development in Morocco.

Recently, I had a moment of self-reflection brought about by the passing of someone who made a difference in the trajectory of my life. Years ago, I lived in the home of Omar Himmi Ait Omrar in the village of Amsouzerte in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Sharing stories about those two years (1993-1995) living in Omar’s home and what followed, those stories of life, may be meaningful to others.

In the early 1990s, getting to this very distant village, caught between the provinces of Ouarzazate, Taroudant, and Al Haouz, was difficult. Of the five valleys surrounding Toubkal mountain, the tallest peak in North Africa, only one is on its south side: the Tifnoute. What is special about that fact is that about half of the Toubkal National Park is the summer pasturelands for the Tifnoute people’s herds. Yet, until that time there had not been adequate communication between the park management and the Tifnoute community of 44 villages (about 12,000 people) because it is so remote that it takes 24 hours to get there due to having to circle around the Atlas Mountains in order to arrive, with the last 70 kilometers of which being unpaved paths. When, as Peace Corps Volunteers, we were assigned to the Toubkal park, we could choose to live anywhere among its valleys of villages, so when I heard that no one had gone to the Tifnoute, I said, “OK, I’ll do it, I’ll go.” I traveled in segments, and it took me three days to get there that winter in 1993.

When people arrive in the Tifnoute, they would always be sent to Omar Himmi. No one knew I was coming, and there I was planning to stay for two years. I remember that the first meal I ate was an omelet, after which I immediately felt tired and sick from the long, cold journey. I was ill for two weeks, unable to leave my room and having terrifying hallucinations, which I had never had in my life. I decided early to watch the menacing shapes in my mind like a spectator would a movie, and I even ended up missing them once they were gone. At night, I would feel Omar Himmi’s hand on my head because he was genuinely worried. He would make sure I had hot soup and also tangerines for Vitamin C, which thankfully were in season in Morocco……………

Morocco Submits 2020 Voluntary National Review of SDG Progress

Morocco conducted its second Voluntary National Review of its progress toward the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

By Kristen Gianaris -  Jul 17, 2020 Rabat

Morocco is among 47 countries to carry out a 2020 Voluntary National Review regarding the country’s progress toward the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.  Over the course of three days, beginning on July 14 and ending on July 16, Morocco participated in this year’s annual SDG meeting. The 2020 theme was “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.”  Minister Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans residing abroad Nezha El Ouafi spoke at the virtual UN High Level Political Forum meeting on July 16. She explained the Voluntary National Review has enabled the country to measure its progress as it continuously works toward Morocco’s development goals. ………………..

Moroccan Filmmaker Aziz Tazi on His Rise to Hollywood Fame

“Filmmaking is not easy but it is very rewarding, so in the end, it’s worth all the pain and struggles.”

By Jihad Dardar - Jul 18, 2020

Aziz Tazi is a central figure in the new wave of Moroccan filmmakers, paving the way for Moroccan films to rise in international popularity. Tazi wrote and directed “Night Walk,” which, this November, will become the first Moroccan film to hit Hollywood. At this major point in his career, the Moroccan-born, LA-based filmmaker has been reflecting on the inspiration for his career and his journey in filmmaking, as well as gearing up for upcoming projects.

Early aspirations
One of Forbes Africa’s “30 Under 30,” Aziz Tazi shared the simple beginnings of his now illustrious filmmaking career to Morocco World News: “My best friend and I would make videos every week from when we were 12 until I left Morocco at age 18.”  Growing up in Casablanca, Aziz loved telling stories and editing coverage of video games. With significant effort and time, he put together a 15-minute clip that presented highlights from the popular FPS game Counter-Strike, with visual effects that he personally created and synchronized with the video’s actions. However, the young Aziz always wanted to produce live-action content.  He eventually made a short film and documentaries before taking on the challenge of creating his first feature film, but his path to success was not without obstacles…………..

The Forgotten Victims Of The Pandemic: An Ongoing Migration Crisis

Arabic: Al-Watan Voice, 16 Jul 2020.

As Europe closed borders and suspended flights in early March to combat the spread of COVID-19, undocumented migrants and migrant workers remained stuck in Spain for two months, many without living spaces or sources of income after the shutdown, leaving some to take shelter in gyms or out on the streets, some even attempting to swim into Morocco from Ceuta as a last resort. With most countries closing borders and issuing some form of stay-at-home orders, safety and services dedicated to asylum seekers and refugees has dramatically decreased. The result is a large number of migrants in Morocco and around the world facing dangerous health situations and increased economic insecurity. Migrants in Morocco, even those with proper documentation, cannot reap the benefits of accessible state aid. For many, income and livelihood depend on mobility. The majority of migrants work in informal jobs (street vendors and uncontracted work such as cleaners), which contribute to 20 percent of Morocco’s economy. With closures many have no source of income and cannot qualify for any financial support by the government………………

Marrying Love and Fashion: Wedding Dresses in Morocco

The various wedding dresses in Morocco are majestic, fascinating, and rich in regional heritage.

By Jihad Dardar -  Jul 18, 2020

Each country has its own special wedding traditions and ceremonies, and Morocco is no exception. The traditional Moroccan wedding is full of fascinating customs and elaborate processes, from the henna party to the wedding food. Certainly, the most enchanting element is the wedding dresses a bride in Morocco will choose. Everyone gets dressed up for Moroccan weddings. Female guests wear all sorts of beautiful caftans and takchitas (Moroccan dresses) of various colors, textures, shapes, and ornamentations. The male guests usually wear suits, and the wedding staff also wear kaftans and suits. The groom starts with a suit and often changes it for a “jabador,” and later for a Moroccan male djellaba.

Just like a wedding in any other country, the Moroccan bride is treated like a queen, and undoubtedly dresses the part. From the start of the wedding until the end of the night, the bride dons several different traditional Moroccan wedding dresses that represent different regions. The wardrobe choice tends to give special attention to the bride and the groom’s regions of origin……………..

World Bank: Morocco’s Response Saved Lives, Threatens Recession

“The COVID-19 shock is, however, abruptly pushing the economy into a severe recession, the first one since 1995.”

By Kristen Gianaris -  Jul 18, 2020 Rabat

The World Bank’s Morocco Economic Monitor report for July 2020 commends Morocco’s “swift and decisive” response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, indicators show that the country’s life-saving measures came at a high cost for the economy, resulting in a looming recession. The report recognizes Morocco’s ongoing efforts toward socio-economic development across the country, highlighting “dramatic improvements towards eradicating extreme poverty; increased life expectancy, greater access to basic public services, and significant public infrastructure development.” Meanwhile, it notes that the pandemic could set the country’s economic development back amid years of progress. “The COVID-19 shock is, however, abruptly pushing the economy into a severe recession, the first one since 1995,” it reads…………………..

Exploring the Impact of COVID-19 on Study Abroad Programs in Morocco

While study abroad programs in Morocco have ceased under COVID-19 travel restrictions, virtual programming offers students opportunities to continue learning about the North African country.

By Kristen Gianaris -  Jul 19, 2020 Rabat

For years, Morocco has lured students from around the world who wish to discover the country’s rich history, diverse landscapes, culture, language, and beauty. The North African country has hosted a variety of international exchange programs, study abroad students, and school trips. Now, amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, the industry of international education is searching for solutions to uphold global learning opportunities in unprecedented times. 

“We had to just sit down and take a pause to think about what is going on and how we are going to remain afloat—and offer something that has value,” Ali Bensebaa, Program Director for the Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies (MCAS), told Morocco World News. Each year, the MCAS brings anywhere from 100 to 500 foreign students to Morocco for language studies and volunteer internship programs. 

Many organizations that facilitate programs in Morocco for foreign students are attempting to strategize a new approach and offer students alternative experiences. Although it is impossible to simply replace in-person and in-country experience, many organizations are harnessing the potential of technology in order to meet cross-cultural learning demands and pull their organizations through until it’s possible for travel to resume. ……………….

Morocco’s Imilchil Wedding Festival: A Treasured Amazigh Tradition

Every year, the small Amazigh town of Imilchil comes alive with music, folklore, and a bustling marketplace as young men and women gather to seek out potential life partners.

By Morgan Hekking -  Morgan Hekking holds a BA in International Relations from Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York.
Jul 22, 2020 Rabat

The Imilchil Wedding Festival is one of Morocco’s most widely-known Amazigh (Berber) traditions. The 500-year-old festival takes place every September near Imilchil, a small town in the Ait Haddidou region of the Atlas Mountains.  The expansive festival site is situated near the tomb of Sidi Mohammed El Maghani, the Ait Haddidou people’s patron saint. The Ait Haddidou tribes believe that any marriage blessed by Maghani will be long and prosperous. The site blossoms each festival season with traders from neighboring towns. As many as 30,000 people gather to sell their wares or scope out potential brides and grooms.

Human Rights Watch Calls on Morocco to Ensure LGBTQ Rights

Human Rights Watch affirms the “precarious” situation for LGBTQ identifying people in Morocco. The organization makes ongoing calls for justice.

By Morocco World News -  Jul 23, 2020 Rabat

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international NGO headquartered in New York, has questioned the justice system surrounding Moroccan transgender women and LGBTQ rights in Morocco. A July 22 publication titled “‘Where is the Justice’ for Moroccan Transgender Women?,” highlights Morocco’s “homophobic” laws and “LBGT people’s precarious lives in Morocco.”  Inspired by the AfroQueer podcast titled “One Night in Marrakech,” HRW notes the Moroccan government’s failure to protect queer and trans people from harassment and discrimination……………

Tourism Expert: COVID-19 Crisis Could Cost Morocco 10 Million Tourists in 2020

Like Morocco’s government, the tourism expert acknowledged how the sector experienced the greatest impact from the COVID-19 crisis.

By Safaa Kasraoui -  Jul 23, 2020 Rabat

Moroccan tourism expert Zouhir Bouhout believes that Morocco risks losing 10.5 million tourists and over 19.8 million overnight stays in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Bouhout, who is the director of the Local Tourism Office (CRT) in Ouarzazate, shared with Morocco World News the results of a study he carried out on COVID-19’s repercussions on the sector. The study shows 2020 as a “year of recession for Morocco’s economy.” The study outlines the impacts of COVID-19 on the tourism sector and other businesses………..

Morocco Risks Losing 712,000 Jobs, Rising Unemployment in 2020

The ministry forecast an increase in the unemployment rate to 14.8%.

By Safaa Kasraoui -  Jul 23, 2020 Rabat

The Ministry of Labor expects Morocco could lose approximately 712,000 jobs in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, and that unemployment could rise to 14.8%.
The ministry shared the forecast in a virtual conference that Minister of Labor Mohamed Amekraz chaired on Tuesday, according to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).
Unemployment is one of the areas that Morocco’s government seeks to tackle due to a continuous rise in the lack of job opportunities. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Morocco, several businesses have suspended activities due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown………….

55% of Moroccan Households Reduced Food Consumption During Lockdown

Most Moroccans who reduced their food purchases claimed facing financial challenges.

By Yahia Hatim - Jul 23, 2020 Rabat

More than half of Moroccan households have reduced their food consumption and expenses during the COVID-19 lockdown, according to a recent report from Morocco’s High Commission for Planning (HCP). The report reveals that approximately 55% of Moroccan families reduced their food consumption and expenses, 30% maintained the same level, and more than 15% increased their expenses. HCP’s study centered on expenses relating to 10 essential food products. The products include flour and cereals, vegetables, fruits, and beans. The list also includes red meat, white meat, fish, milk and dairy products, oil, and sugar……………….

Hearts and LOLs: Facebook Reveals the Most Popular Emojis in Morocco

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Moroccan Facebook users have used the medical mask emoji over 1.2 million times.

By Madeleine Handaji -  Jul 22, 2020

Facebook has revealed a list of the most popular emojis in the MENA region, with the red and black hearts and the crying with laughter face coming out on top in Morocco. The social media giant released the new statistics to mark World Emoji Day 2020. According to recent statistics from the social media giant, Moroccan account holders use the crying with laughter emoji more than any other symbol. The red heart and the heavy black heart are the second and third most popular emojis in Morocco. Across the Middle East and North Africa, Facebook users favor the crying with laughter emoji, the red and black hearts, the smiling face with heart-shaped eyes, and the rolling on the floor laughing emoji………..

Morocco Risks Losing 712,000 Jobs, Rising Unemployment in 2020

The ministry forecast an increase in the unemployment rate to 14.8%.

By Safaa Kasraoui -  Jul 23, 2020 Rabat

The Ministry of Labor expects Morocco could lose approximately 712,000 jobs in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, and that unemployment could rise to 14.8%.
The ministry shared the forecast in a virtual conference that Minister of Labor Mohamed Amekraz chaired on Tuesday, according to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).
Unemployment is one of the areas that Morocco’s government seeks to tackle due to a continuous rise in the lack of job opportunities. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Morocco, several businesses have suspended activities due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown………………

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